07/02/2007 03:18 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Acupower to the People! Recent NYC Training for Acupuncturists Without Borders

Over the years I have experienced great joy and a sense of honor to be practicing traditional Chinese medicine. Though this medicine has not changed very much in a couple of thousand years (attesting to its efficacy!), and though traditionally it was the local and folk medicine, practiced in every village...and somewhat differently here and there, in our culture it tends to be a medicine of the elite, the privileged. Typically, only the well-insured and those who can pay cash out of pocket usually have access to regular acupuncture.

I'm serious when I quip that everyone should have an acupuncturist....and while we're at it, a massage therapist. What this really means is that everyone should have an ally in helping their body and mind get and stay express its innate ability to heal and transform, to stay relaxed and able to rengenerate and renew after the normal stresses and strains of the day or week.

And then there are the times when the stresses go beyond the normal day-to-day vicissitudes into the realm of disaster and trauma. This actually is one area where some progress has been made in getting acupuncture available to those who can not typically afford it.

About a month ago, I attended a three day team leadership training of the organization Acupuncturists Without Borders, a relatively new group out of Sandia Park, New Mexico. Acupuncturists Without Borders was founded by acupuncturist Diana Fried after the tumultuous unraveling of life effected so many members of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. The training was at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City, and 60 acupuncturists from around the region and the country gathered to take part and train together.

We were taught about the work to date "in the field" that Acupuncturists Without Borders has been doing. Using the concept of "community acupuncture," AWB received permission to bring volunteer acupuncturists from around the country into the New Orleans and nearby communities to administer free acupuncture to a wide range of needy hurricane survivors. Responding to the need to regulate or at least keep track of practitioners who came from a variety of schools and practice traditions, the local Louisiana authorities decided that permission would be granted for out-of-state acupuncturists to take part in the community acupuncture clinics only if they all used one particular treatment defined by the National Association of Detox Acupuncture (NADA). This one treatment would be used on everyone who came for acupuncture.

This "Five Point Protocol", which involves the use of five acupuncture points on the ears, is a general treatment for relaxation and stress reduction and is used in drug, alcohol and smoking detox programs across the country and abroad. What's so wonderful about it is that is makes almost everybody who gets it feel relaxed, calm and pretty wonderful. That's saying a lot, for instance, for a Vietnam Vet, recently treated as part of the AWB's new veteran's project, who has, after more than 25 years of anxiety and insomnia, started to get some relief from his high anxiety after a series of these treatments.

The community acupuncture treatments are administered to groups, and in New Orleans, this involved groups in tents, local cafes and pretty much anywhere a group of chairs could be set up and sanitary precautions observed. Cynthia Neipris of Pactific College of Oriental Medicine is very active in moving community acupuncture to various sites in the NY metropolitan area, sometimes treating a hundred or more patients in a day, free of charge, and full of generosity. Cynthia can be reached at PCOM for more information about the community acupuncture project.

I look forward, now that I have done the training, to taking part in one of these trips to help people in desperate straights, including taking part in some aspect of the more recently started Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Project. In the meantime, I plan to hold more community acupuncture days in my own community, offering free treatments (a donation to AWB is welcome) to introduce people to the powerful effects of acupuncture, a low overhead, user-friendly treatment modality. When an acupuncturist friend of mine and I held such a day to raise money for AWB a few months ago, the reporter from the local paper who came to cover the event, found a bunch of extremely relaxed people, practically giggling and giddy over how good they felt after the acupuncture.

Spread the word and acupower to the people!!!